Gabriella Daris’s “Mother Earth Mediations:
Turning Landscapes into Bodyscapes”
Mother earth is producing offspring, is regenerating and reproducing. The man is also planting seeds on earth, but would that mean that the earth is maternal, as opposed to, paternal? Would that consequently mean that earth is a giant womb? What is the earth’s gender?
Plantation has been a trend for land and environmental artists; among many, the first ones to conceive plantation as a form of art making, Andy Lipkis planted trees in urban areas, in 1979 and later in
1982, Joseph Beuys’ planting event of 7,000 oak trees was intended as a social sculpture, using vegetation as a form of regeneration of the earth. The symbol of the tree was also used by Ana Mendieta: in the Untitled (Tree of Life series), 1977, she stands against an enormous tree, facing front, with her arms upraised, naked and covered in mud, she appears as a miniature figure. This image, recalls Robert Fludd’s Utriusque Cosmi Maioris scilicet et Minoris where the female body, as tree of life, stands for powerful energies of nourishment and regeneration, as “a transcendental signifier that supersedes the phallus.”1
As we look at Mendieta’s silhouettes, we may wonder, “Who has left these body traces? And of which gender are they?” Mendieta’s Silueta series embodies the metaphor of earth-as-woman; earth/woman
as natural, maternal, in need of cultivation; earth/woman as the mother of us all. She becomes one with the earth in such a way that she returns back to the womb, in search of her origins. She unites herself with the
land, Mother Earth, she becomes a womb, or she appears and disappears from the womb of the earth, echoing the birth-death cycle. Amelia Jones describes: “Mendieta’s photographs of her body-as-trace
both address the spectator’s own interpretative body and thwart its conventionally masculinist, colonizing “gaze” by ritualizing and in many cases erasing the “actual” body from their purview.”2
1 Jane Blocker, Where is Ana Mendieta? Identity, Performativity, and Exile, p. 61.
2 Amelia Jones, Body Art/Performing the subject, p. 31.